How to complain about inaccessible public sector websites
These digital services exist to help people to do essential and everyday tasks. From booking a GP appointment to renewing your passport.
Public sector websites and mobile applications, or “apps”, should be accessible. They should be easy for everyone to use. That includes for people who:
- use assistive technology like a screen reader or speech recognition software
- use browser customisations, like increasing magnification or changing colours
- have difficulties with anxiety or concentration
- are dyslexic or autistic
Accessible public services: what the law says
Public Sector Accessibility Regulations
The Accessibility Regulations say that public sector organisations have a legal duty to:
- make sure their websites and mobile apps meet accessibility requirements
- publish an accessibility statement
To do this, organisations need to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). These help make digital services easier for people to see, hear, understand and use.
Who the accessibility regulations apply to
The Accessibility Regulations apply to public sector organisations including:
- Local councils and parish councils
- Central government departments
- Most NHS organisations
- Most universities and colleges
- Some charities and other non-government organisations
Monitoring the regulations
The Government Digital Service (GDS) monitors the accessibility of public sector websites. They are responsible for making sure they follow the law.
GDS works with two equality organisations to help find and review accessibility issues:
How to report an inaccessible public sector website
Step 1: Check the organisation’s accessibility statement for ways to contact them
Under the Accessibility Regulations, public sector organisations must publish an accessibility statement. The accessibility statement is usually found at the bottom of each webpage. In the statement it should explain:
- if the website is ‘fully’, ‘partially’ or ‘not’ compliant with accessibility standards
- if it’s not fully compliant, it should say which parts of the website do not meet accessibility standards, and why. For example, they are exempt from the regulations or it’s a ‘disproportionate burden’ to fix it.
- how people can get alternatives to content that’s not accessible to them. For example, how to get large print or audio recordings.
- how to contact the website to report accessibility problems, It should also say what to do if you’re not happy with their response
A ‘disproportionate burden’ is when it’s very costly or time consuming to fix the issues.
Step 2: Use a template to contact the organisation with your feedback
You will need to explain the issue or problem you have found.
Explain the details and send it to the organisation whose website you have an issue with.
The organisation should reply to explain what action they will take, and when. Organisations are allowed some time to fix a problem if it’s difficult or costly.
If you cannot contact the organisation because of accessibility issues, contact:
- Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) for England, Scotland and Wales
- Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI)
They can give you advice on how to report an accessibility problem.
What to do if the problem is not resolved
There are things you can do if you do not get a response to your complaint, or if you’re unhappy with the response. There are also organisations that can help.
Start by registering your complaint with an equality advisory organisation.
Contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) if you live in England, Scotland or Wales and either:
- cannot find an accessibility statement published on a public sector website
- have reported an accessibility issue to a website or app owner and you’re unhappy with the response
If you live in Northern Ireland, contact the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI).
Both organisations can offer advice on your rights.
EASS contact information
Freephone Telephone 0808 800 0082
Text phone 0808 800 0084
ECNI contact information
Telephone 028 90 500 600
Why should I report an inaccessible public sector website?
Organisations may be breaking the law
Public sector organisations that do not follow the regulations may not realise that users cannot access their services. They could have unknowingly made it difficult or impossible for certain people to use their website or app.
This risks breaching the Equality Act. This is an important law designed to protect people’s rights.
Your experience could help others
Sharing your feedback and experience of an inaccessible website helps website owners to:
- find the issues
- understand how to improve the experience
- make websites and apps better for everyone
User feedback is taken seriously
The Government Digital Service (GDS) is committed to investigating issues. And then working with website owners to resolve them. User feedback is vital for that to work.
EASS and ECNI work with GDS to review reported problems.
More support for raising complaints
Check out these frequently asked questions on:
- how to report a problem about an inaccessible public sector website
- why it’s important to share your feedback
- what happens when you do
Produced in partnership between Scope and the Central Digital and Data Office.